The Black Forest ( German: Schwarzwald ) is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres (4,898 ft). The region is almost rectangular with a length of 200 km (120 mi) and breadth of 60 km (37 mi). Hence it has an area of approximately 12,000 km2 (4,600 sq mi). The name Schwarzwald, i.e. Black Forest, goes back to the Romans who referred to the thickly forested mountains there as Silva Nigra , i.e. “Black Forest,” because the dense growth of conifers in the forest blocked out most of the light inside the forest. The Black Forest consists of a cover of sandstone on top of a core of gneiss and granites. Formerly it shared tectonic evolution with the nearby Vosges Mountains. Later during the Middle Eocene a rifting period affected the area and caused formation of the Rhine graben. During the last glacial period of the Würm glaciation, the Black Forest was covered by glaciers; several tarns (or lakes) such as the Mummelsee are remains of this period. Rivers in the Black Forest include the Danube (which originates in the Black Forest as the confluence of the Brigach and Breg rivers), the Enz, the Kinzig, the Murg, the Nagold, the Neckar, the Rench, and the Wiese. The Black Forest is part of the continental divide between the Atlantic Ocean drainage basin (drained by the Rhine) and the Black Sea drainage basin (drained by the Danube).
There are many old towns in the Black Forest. Popular tourist destinations include Freiburg, Calw (the birth town of Hermann Hesse), Gengenbach, Staufen, Schiltach, Haslach and Altensteig. Other popular destinations include such mountains as the Feldberg, the Belchen, the Kandel, and the Schauinsland; the Titisee and Schluchsee lakes; the All Saints Waterfalls; the Triberg Waterfalls, not the highest, but the most famous waterfalls in Germany; and the gorge of the River Wutach. The Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof is an open-air museum that shows the life of sixteenth or seventeenth century farmers in the region, featuring a number of reconstructed Black Forest farms.
The German Clock Museum in Furtwangenshows the history of the clock industry and of watchmakers. For drivers, the main route through the region is the rapid A5 (E35) motorway, but a variety of sign-posted scenic routes such as the Schwarzwald-Hochstrasse (60 km (37 mi), Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt), Schwarzwald Tälerstrasse (100 km (62 mi), the Murg and Kinzig valleys) or Badische Weinstrasse (Baden Wine Street, 160 km (99 mi), a wine route from Baden-Baden to Weil am Rhein) offers calmer driving along high roads. The last is a picturesque trip starting in the south of the Black Forest going north and includes numerous old wineries and tiny villages. Another, more specialized route is the ‘Deutsche Uhrenstraße’ (“German Clock Road“), a circular route which traces the horological history of the region. Due to the rich mining history dating from medieval times (the Black Forest was one of the most important mining regions of Europe circa 1100) there are many mines re-opened to the public. Such mines may be visited in the Kinzig valley, the Suggental, the Muenster valley, and around Todtmoos.The Black Forest was visited on several occasions by Count Otto von Bismarck during his rule 1873-1890. Allegedly, he especially was interested in the Triberg Waterfalls. There is now a monument in Triberg dedicated to Bismarck, who apparently enjoyed the tranquility of the region, which was lacking at his residence in Berlin.
Black Forest ham originated from this region, and so, by name and reputation at least, did the Black Forest Cake. It also is known as the “Black Forest Cherry Cake” or “Black Forest Gateau” and is made with chocolate cake, cream, sour cherries and Kirsch. The Black Forest variety of Flammkuchen is a Badisch specialty made with ham, cheese and cream. Pfannkuchen, a crêpe or crêpe-like (Eierkuchen or Palatschinken) pastry, is also common. The Black Forest is also known for its long tradition in gourmet cuisine. No less than 17 Michelin starred restaurants are located in the region, among them two restaurants with 3 stars (Restaurants Bareiss and Schwarzwaldstube in Baiersbronn) as well as the only restaurant in Germany that has been awarded a Michelin star every year since 1966. At Schwarzwald Hotel Adler in Häusern, three generations of chefs from the same family have defended the award from the first year the Michelin guide selected restaurants in Germany until today.